MAC/20: Mines and Communities

Urgent Action - Community members injured as Canadian Mining Company demolishes their home

Published by MAC on 2006-07-12


Urgent Action - Community members injured as Canadian Mining Company demolishes their home

by Indigenous Peoples Links (PIPLinks)

12th July 2006

Disturbing reports are once again filtering through to the outside world from Canatuan, Zamboanga del Norte in the Philippines. It is claimed that four local farmers were seriously injured, and their property destroyed as a result of a forced relocation of residents by security guards from the Canadian mining company, TVI Pacific, in order to expand their gold mine at Canatuan. The property destroyed belonged to the Galves family, and those injured are Manolita Galves and Loloy Galves, John-john Romano and Jimmy Acope, a Catholic chapel lay minister.

At the time of writing more threats had been made, according to the Canatuan Farmers' Association, and members of the community were mobilising in a last ditch stand to defend their homes and livelihoods.

The injuries occurred when the company security of TVI Mining (paramilitaries called Special CAFGU Armed Auxiliaries or SCAAs, led by Retired Lt. Cortes) demolished the house of the Galves family on June 24th 2006, allegedly taking personal belongings and an undetermined amount of cash without their permission.

Approximately 50 SCAAs directly assisted on the demolition of the Galves residence while the other 50 secured the surrounding area and prevented other farmers from assisting the Galves family in stopping the demolition.

As a result of the incident, Mrs. Galves collapsed, and the SCAAs forcibly dragged her away from the house, while they continued to demolish the house. The SCAAs used their guns to threaten the people who wanted to help Mrs Galves.

The four who were injured are in need of medical treatment, which can only be obtained outside of their remote community. However, at the time of writing the victims said they were anxious about trying to travel to receive medical attention, because they fear the company has banned them from passing through the numerous armed checkpoints.

TVI has claimed that they resorted to force because the Galves family refuses to negotiate with them. Mrs Galves says that the company does not negotiate fairly, but relies on threat and intimidation. She also noted that her family is not interested in negotiating with the company, because they do not wish to leave their homes. They respect the authority of the traditional ancestral domain holders led by Timuay Anoy rather than the company and their guards.

This follows an incident on June 13, when fifty families near the open-cut mining pit of TVI staged a vigil to guard their respective residences from any act of demolition by the company’s SCAA. Because of the vigil the company’s bulldozer operator failed to move the equipment towards the residences. But on June 17, TVI – supported by large numbers of SCAA - bulldozed the farm-plants of the farmers, such as root crops, bananas and other plants. It is now feared that the company security will make another violent attempt to oust local residents.

It is reported that Attorney Pablo Bernardo, a self-styled leader of the Subanon people who collaborates with the company, has now issued an ultimatum to local residents that either they negotiate an agreement with the Canadian mining company, or they will have legal cases filed against them and face the destruction of their properties. This threat is, as ever, backed by the presence of the heavily armed SCAA security. This is just the latest in a long series of incidents wherein both the traditional ancestral land owners and a long established settler community are being driven from the area by threat and force to make way for the development and expansion of an open pit gold mine.

Over the past 10 years there has been a recurrent theme of threats, intimidation and violence against members of the local community, who continue bravely to oppose the presence of the TVI mining company, its army of paramilitary security and its manufactured "community organisation" consisting of the hirelings and clients of the company.

TVI first occupied the area in 1994, without the necessary agreement and against the wishes of the local Subanon led by their legitimate leader, Timuay Jose Anoy. TVI imported armed guards, established check points on the public highway and a blockade on the passage of basic goods in efforts to pressure local residents into leaving. Over the years there have been numerous violent incidents including shooting incidents. In 2003 frustrated by the determined opposition to their plans from the traditional landholders the company boosted its security force and immediately instigated a forced removal of local residents and the confiscation of their property. Most recently in 2004 company guards fired at picketers seeking to prevent the movement of mining equipment. On that occasion four people were wounded, including respected Subanon leader Timuay Macario Salacao.

Many residents of Canatuan have already been driven away to make way for the expansion of the open pit mine, which is carving away the peak of Mount Canatuan, the sacred mountain of the Manglang clan of Subanon. The mine is opposed by the majority of the original inhabitants of Canatuan and by many others downstream of the mine, including the Siocon Federation of Subanon Tribal Councils and the Mayor and Council of the municipality of Siocon.

Attorney Bernardo claims to speak on behalf of the Siocon Subanon Association Inc., representing the ancestral landowners of Canatuan. In fact neither he nor the claimed President of the SSAI, Juanito Tumangkis, originate from Canatuan. The Gukom - or traditional court of Subanon elders - has castigated both for their collaboration with the company, as well as for making false claims as to their ancestry and legitimacy to represent the people of the mine affected area. Despite this they continue to receive recognition by TVI who, by so doing, are seeking to circumvent the rejection of the mine by the traditional landholders led by Timuays Anoy, Tii, and Salacao and the majority of the Subanon people. In this misrepresentation they have been supported by the Canadian Government, through its embassy, and by the current Philippine administration, which is committed to mining expansion by foreign companies.

In a recent letter Dr Catherine Coumans of MiningWatch Canada wrote, “Forced resettlement, as is happening at the TVI Pacific site is not acceptable under any standards for responsible mining. TVI Pacific is responsible for activities taking place within its concession and for the activities of its security forces.” MiningWatch called for a halt to these practices.

We are appealing for people to write urgently to the Prime Minister of Canada to intervene and urge the company to stay its hand and restrain its local representatives and paramilitaries to avoid any further forced relocation, intimidation, violence or destruction of property. Letters should also be sent to the Canadian embassy in Canada, the President of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and to the President and Chief Executive of TVI, Clifford James.

Please write to:-

Prime Minister Stephen Harper
80 Wellington Street,
Ottawa,
Canada K1A 0A2
Fax: +1-613-941-6900
Email: pm@pm.gc.ca

Ms. Ellen Ruth Zeisler
Canadian Embassy, Manila
Level 8, Tower 2
RCBC Plaza, 6819 Ayala Avenue
Makati City, Philippines
Fax: +63 (2) 843-1080
Email: ellenruth.zeisler@international.gc.ca

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo
Malacanang Palace,
JP Laurel Street,
Metro Manila 1005
Philippines
Fax: +63 (2) 736 1010
Email: corres@op.gov.ph

Clifford James, Managing Director and CEO
TVI Pacific Inc,
Suite 2000, 736-6th Avenue SW,
Calgary,
Alberta, T2P 3T7,
Canada
Fax: +1 (403) 264-7028
Email: tvi-info@tvipacific.com

And call for:-

· An immediate and permanent halt to forced relocation at the mine site;

· The withdrawal of the company's armed personnel from the area before there are any more acts of violence or further destruction of property;

· Respect for the wishes of the traditional land holders, namely that the mine be halted as an abuse of a sacred site, its severe damage to the environment and the destruction of the subsistence livelihoods of the local Indigenous Peoples;

· Respect for the legitimate rights of all local residents, including their right to live in peace and right to a livelihood.

Letters of support can also be sent to Timuay Jose Anoy and members of the community, c/o Mayor Cesar Soriano, Siocon Zamboanga del Norte, Philippines, and via email to dcmi@qmile.com.ph and comms@piplinks.org

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